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insurers offering discounts pandemicMay 7, 2020 – Many of the country’s largest for-profit insurance companies are now offering discounts to customers affected by the coronavirus. UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. health insurer by membership, joined Cigna and Humana as the latest company to follow this trend. UnitedHealth Group said in a statement today that it will be providing more than $1.50 billion in initial assistance to its UnitedHealthcare customers, “as many people have been unable to access routine or planned care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What Kinds of Discounts Are Health Insurance Companies Providing?

The ways that companies are providing these benefits vary. UnitedHealth Group in particular will be providing customer discounts such as credits on premiums, which are the payments you make to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. For UnitedHealthcare commercial customers who are fully insured individuals and employers, the insurer will apply credits ranging from 5% to 20% to premium billings in June. Furthermore, the company will waive all specialist and primary physician cost-sharing protocol, at least through the end of September 2020, for customers enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans.

Similarly, Humana announced earlier this week that it is eliminating out-of-pocket costs for office visits for its Medicare Advantage members. It is waiving in-network primary care costs that these customers might otherwise incur – not only for COVID-19 costs, but for all primary care visits for the rest of 2020. Earlier in March, the company removed pre-authorizations for care in many cases and allowed early prescription refills through late July. At the end of March, Cigna began waiving customer cost-sharing and co-payments for COVID-19 treatment.

Additionally, many companies are providing more access to mental health support, such as by waiving outpatient costs for these services or increasing their availability via hotlines, as well as increasing home delivery services for prescriptions.

Discounts Are a Much-Needed Break

These discounts come at a time when people nationwide are experiencing strain and economic hardship due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus crisis, on top of already high healthcare costs. Increasing numbers of people are dropping out of employer-provided coverage as employment declines and businesses become unable to support staff. And while many who are covered are able to use telehealth services, some are deciding to forgo essential preventative and primary care services.

At the same time, hospitals have been cancelling elective procedures and have experienced a sharp drop in claims for healthcare services, in turn seeing a sudden, albeit short-term, increase in profits. Companies hope to address this imbalance by finding these ways to lower costs.

Is My Insurance Company Providing Discounts?

Discounts on plans vary by insurance company, so the best way to find out if your insurance company is taking similar steps is to call its offices or visit its website. Additionally, you can find a comprehensive list of how providers are taking action to respond to coronavirus at the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) website, here.

Tips for Navigating Healthcare Costs

  • Shop around. Considering alternatives to health insurance is important for maintaining a healthy budget. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is the best for you.
  • Consider a health savings account (HSA). If you are enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), you might have access to a health savings account, or HSA, which can not only provide tax benefits but also help you save for retirement.
  • Get expert help. Just as you would consult a healthcare professional to assess your well being, be sure to consult a financial professional to assess your fiscal well being. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SpiffyJ

Nadia Ahmad, CEPF® Nadia Ahmad is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). Her interest in taxes and grammar makes writing about personal finance a perfect fit! Nadia has spent ten years working as a seasonal income tax assistant, researching federal, state and local tax code and assisting in preparing tax returns. Nadia has a degree in English and American Literature from New York University and has served as an instructor/facilitator for a variety of writing workshops in the NYC area.
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